Together with three friends from my home university, we decided to take part in the UCLA Summer Session, as our studies also include a stay abroad.
After the registration was successful and we were all admitted to the desired courses, the next step was to apply for the visa. To do this, an application form from the US embassy has to be filled out online, which could cost some nerves as the system quickly logs you out for security reasons. The data is retained and saved, but it’s still annoying.
Once you have filled out and sent the application, print out the confirmation page. You will need this page (there must be “confirmation” on it) and some other documents if you drive to the consulate for the visa appointment. If you don’t have one of the documents with you, you may not even be allowed into the consulate and have to make a new appointment (or be sent to the nearest internet cafe to print out the correct documents). In the consulate you have a short conversation with an employee at a counter who asks you briefly what, why you want to go to the USA and then normally approves the visa for you. You will get this sent to your home after a few days.
Once the visa has arrived, nothing stands in the way of entry. However, be prepared for the fact that entry at the airport can take a few hours.
UCLA’s campus is very impressive. Lots of green spaces, everything very well-kept and clean. In addition to various shopping opportunities, there are a variety of food shops for every taste in the Ackerman Union (where the UCLA store is also located). Here you can also pay cashless with your Bruincard (student ID) if you have topped it up at a terminal beforehand.
The Bruincard also gives you access to the fitness center, which you can use for free. Apart from that, the campus offers soccer fields, tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool and an athletics facility.
Should you ever get sick, a medical supply center with its own pharmacy is available on campus. Some medicines (for colds etc.) are also available in supermarkets without a prescription (eg “Ralphs”).
If you are planning trips to Universal Studios, Sea World in San Diego or even just to the cinema, you should stop by the Central Ticket Office on campus. There you get some tickets at a reduced price.
The campus is located in the Westwood neighborhood. A very well-kept district in the immediate vicinity of Beverly Hills and Bel Air. Here you will find everything you need for life. Supermarkets for daily shopping (“Ralphs”, “Trader Joe’s”), electronics stores (“Best Buy”), restaurants and cinemas. Westwood is about a 15-20 minute walk from campus.
If you go shopping at Ralphs or in another supermarket, you will find that many products have two different prices or special offers. You get these discounts with the customer card of the supermarket. The card is free and we didn’t even have to fill out anything to use it. This saves Ma a lot of money, but you will also find that the food prices are quite high compared to Germany, despite the discounts.
You should definitely visit O’Hara’s, one of the few pubs in Westwood and a popular meeting place for students. Close by is Fat Sal’s, which has really good burgers that you should try.
I took two courses, Management 88 and Management 180, both with Professor John Ullmen, both of which have a similar structure. The lecture hours were very interactive and only a small part consisted of frontal teaching. In terms of style, they were more like soft skill courses. The focus was on speaking and discussing with the other course participants. Most of the time, different topics were discussed in small groups or tasks were solved and then presented to the class.
The topic of the first course was building and maintaining relationships in professional life and how you can use certain techniques to expand your network in a meaningful way. The second course was about how to be productive and efficient in group work without being ignored.
The mood was quite relaxed in both courses, although the working atmosphere in the first course was a little better because there were fewer participants (approx. 20 participants in Mgt 88 and approx. 40 participants in Mgt 180). Unfortunately, during the summer session you don’t come into very much contact with American students, the courses consist mostly of Asian students. But this also gives you the opportunity to learn a lot about Asian culture and to make new contacts.
During the summer session, I lived with three fellow students in an apartment at the university. The various apartment buildings (we stayed in Westwood Chateau) are all quite close to the campus. It takes about 5 minutes to walk to the campus and in our case about 15-20 minutes to the lecture room (Gold Building). The apartments are quite generously equipped. For four people we had two bedrooms with bunk beds (the upper bed can also be easily lifted down) and two desks, a chest of drawers and a closet, two bathrooms and a large lounge with kitchen.
Be aware that apart from the furniture there is no facility in the apartments. That means you have to buy plates, cutlery, glasses, pans, etc. yourself. But before you go straight to the nearest supermarket, ask your apartment coordinators beforehand whether they can help you out. We left our entire facility with our apartment coordinator, who wanted to pass it on to subsequent international students.
Since the apartment is equipped with a kitchen, we did without an additional meal plan in the university and largely catered for ourselves. Since we used the weekend and individual days during the week for excursions, it is a little cheaper to get there.
There are washing facilities in the apartment building on each floor. The washers and dryers are fed with quarter-dollar coins, detergent is not available and must be provided by yourself. It may also make sense to get a couple of hangers to hang up and dry the washed items. Iron and ironing board are available from the apartment coordinators if required. Just like a mop, plunger and possibly also a vacuum cleaner in the future.
We rented a car from Germany for the entire time in LA, which gave us a lot of freedom. If you have the opportunity to share the costs with others, you should definitely consider doing so.
A parking space in the apartment building’s underground car park also makes sense, as there are not many parking spaces available along the street or they may only be used or not used at a certain time. Even if you do not book a parking space directly when booking the accommodation, you can do so on site without any problems.
Popular excursion destinations in Los Angeles are Universal Studios (in my opinion the entrance fee for what is on offer is too high), Walk of Fame and the Santa Monica Pier. Also worth seeing are Venice Beach and a trip to Malibu.
The Griffith Observatory is definitely not to be missed. From there you have a stunning view over the whole of Los Angeles.
Las Vegas, San Diego and San Francisco are definitely worth a trip. On the way to San Francisco it is worthwhile to drive part of the route along the coastal highway, but the entire route via the highway is only moderately worthwhile. National parks (Yosemite, Sequoia) are very impressive.
It is definitely advisable to plan excursions in advance (possibly from Germany). On the one hand, 6 weeks are up faster than you would like, on the other hand you can save a lot of money if you take care of accommodation etc. early enough.
Even if the Californian summer shows what it can do during the day, it gets quite fresh on some evenings. San Francisco is also harsher than Los Angeles in terms of climate, so you should think of appropriate clothing.
All in all, the summer session was very worthwhile for me. You get to see a lot of new things and meet new people from different cultures.
The only downer is the cost of the trip, but since you only do this once in a lifetime, I can still recommend it unreservedly.
If you don’t have to go back to Germany straight away after the summer session, use the time to explore the USA a little more. There’s much to see.